BLOOD-AVENGER


BLOOD-AVENGER
A person who is authorized by law, or who is duty-bound, to kill a murderer is called go'el ha-dam – usually translated as an avenger of blood, but more accurately to be rendered as a redeemer of blood (cf. Lev. 25:25; Ruth 3:12; I Kings 16:11). By putting the murderer to death (Num. 35:19, 21), the avenger expiates the blood shed on the polluted land (Num. 35:33). Originally private revenge was legitimate in Israel, as in other ancient civilizations, not only for homicide but also for mayhem (cf. Gen. 4:23–24) and rape (Gen. 34:25–26); and the restrictions on the avenger's rights and their legal regulation marked the beginnings of a system of criminal law (see B. Cohen in bibl.). It was stipulated that only murder with malice aforethought (Num. 35:20–21; Deut. 19:11–13) or committed with a murderous instrument (Num. 35:16–18; for further examples, see Maim., Yad, Roze'ah u-Shemirat Nefesh 6:6–9) gave rise to the avenger's right (see Mak. 12a, Sanh. 45b); the unintentional manslayer was entitled to refuge from the avenger (Num. 35:12, 15; Deut. 19:4–6) and was liable to be killed by him only when he prematurely left the city of refuge (Num. 35:26–28). It may be considered a concession to human nature that avenging was not wholly prohibited, but only restricted   and regulated: the natural "hot anger" (Deut. 19:6) of the victim's next of kin is left at least some legal outlet. The avenger's rights were further restricted by being made subject to and dependent on the prior judicial conviction of the murderer – whether the murder was premeditated or not was a question not for the avenger but for the court to decide (Maim. loc. cit. 1:5, following Num. 35:12; "the manslayer may not die unless he has stood trial before the assembly"; but cf. Yad, loc. cit. 5:7–10). Opinions of later jurists were divided as to what the avenger's real function was; some held that he initiated the proceedings, searching for the murderer and bringing him to court for trial (Ramban; Nov.; Sanh. 45b; Beit ha-Beḥirah ad loc.); some thought he should appear before the court and participate in the proceedings as a prosecutor (Nissim Gerondi, basing himself on the Targum pseudo-Jonathan who renders go'el ha-dam as "claimant of blood"); others relegated the avenger to the role of an executioner, it being his right and privilege to execute the death penalty pronounced by the court (Yad, loc. cit. 1:2; Ritba, Nov., Mak. 10b). That the avenger had a locus standi in court appears probable from the scriptural injunction that the court "shall decide between the slayer and the blood-avenger" (Num. 35:24). While the slayer would protest his innocence or, alternatively, his lack of malice, the avenger would plead premeditation (cf. Malbim ad loc.); by finding a lack of malice, the court is said to "protect the manslayer from the blood-avenger" (Num. 35:25). When an alleged murderer stood trial but was not convicted (either because of lack of sufficient evidence or because the verdict had not yet been given) and the avenger killed him, most jurists held that while the killing was unlawful, the avenger was not guilty of murder (Beit ha-Beḥirah, Sanh. 45b) – the proffered reason being that the avenger had a better right to kill than even the unintentional manslayer (Yad, loc. cit. 6:5), or that Scripture itself recognized the avenger's "hot anger" (Deut. 19:6) as negating premeditation (Redak to II Sam. 14:7). However, if the avenger killed the murderer within the walls of the city of refuge, it was murder pure and simple (Tosef., Mak. 3:6). Any next of kin entitled to inherit the deceased's estate qualified as an avenger (Yad, loc. cit. 1:2). Some later authorities even include maternal relatives although they are not in line for inheritance (Or Same'ah to Yad, loc. cit., against Maimonides). Women also qualify as avengers (Yad, loc. cit. 1:3). There are biblical instances of a father (II Sam. 13:31–38), a son (II Kings 14:5–6), brothers (Judg. 8:4–21; II Sam. 2:22–23), and also the king (I Kings 2:29–34) as avengers. It was later stipulated that when no next of kin was available or came forward, an avenger was to be appointed by the court (Sanh. 45b). There is little doubt that legally the rights (and duties) of the blood-avenger became obsolete (Ḥavvat Ya'ir 146), though the killing by the avenger of a murderer is even today legally regarded by some scholars as no more than unintentional manslaughter (e.g. Keẓot ha-Ḥoshen ḤM 2). Apart from the law, the right and duty of avenging the blood of one's nearest relatives are still deeply imprinted on the mind and religious conviction of most Oriental (including many Jewish) communities; notwithstanding repeated efforts from various quarters, blood vengeance is not, however, recognized in Israeli law even in mitigating circumstances. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Duschak, Mosaisch-Talmudisches Strafrecht (1869), 19f.; S. Mayer, Rechte der Israeliten, Athener, und Roemer, 3 (1876), 36–47; E. Goitein, Vergeltungsprincip im biblischen und talmudischen Strafrecht (1891); G. Foerster, Das mosaische Strafrecht… (1900), 9ff.; J. Weismann, Talion und oeffentliche Strafe im mosaischen Rechte (1913); E. Merz, Blutrache bei den Israeliten (1916); ET, 5 (1953), 220–33; J.M. Ginzburg, Mishpatim le-Yisra'el (1956), 356–74; EM, 2 (1965), 392–4; B. Cohen, Jewish and Roman Law, 2 (1966), 624–7; addenda 793f.; I. Warhaftig, Goel ha-Dam, Tehumim, 11 (1990), 326-360. (Haim Hermann Cohn)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Avenger of Blood — Surnom AoB Pays d’origine  États Unis Genre musical Thrash metal Années& …   Wikipédia en Français

  • avenger of blood — The next of kin to a murdered person whose duty it was thought to be to avenge his or her death • • • Main Entry: ↑blood …   Useful english dictionary

  • Blood Law — (also called blood revenge ) is the practice in traditional American Indian customary law where responsibility for seeing that homicide is punished falls on the clan of the victim. The responsibility for revenge fell to a close family member… …   Wikipedia

  • Avenger — A*ven ger, n. 1. One who avenges or vindicates; as, an avenger of blood. [1913 Webster] 2. One who takes vengeance. [Obs.] Milton. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Avenger (fictional character) — This article refers to the fictional character. For Swedish band Amon Amarth s album, see The Avenger (album). See also: Avenger. Superherobox| caption= The Avenger Justice Inc. (Sep. 1939) Art by H. W. Scott comic color=background:#c0c0c0… …   Wikipedia

  • Avenger of Blood — Infobox musical artist Name = Avenger of Blood Img capt = Img size = Landscape = yes Background = group or band Origin = Las Vegas, Nevada, USA Genre = Thrash metal, speed metal Years active = 2001–present Label = Heavy Artillery Records, JCM… …   Wikipedia

  • Avenger (British band) — Infobox musical artist Name = Avenger Img capt = Img size = Landscape = Background = group or band Origin = Newcastle, England Genre = Heavy metal Years active = 1982 ndash;1986, 2005 present Label = Neat Records Associated acts = Blitzkrieg… …   Wikipedia

  • Blood & Magic — Infobox VG| title = Blood Magic developer = Tachyon Studios publisher = Interplay released = November 26, 1996 genre = Real time strategy modes = Single player, Multi player platforms = DOS, Windows 95 media = CD ROMBlood Magic is a computer game …   Wikipedia

  • Blood —    1) As food, prohibited in Gen. 9:4, where the use of animal food is first allowed. Comp. Deut. 12:23; Lev. 3:17; 7:26; 17:10 14. The injunction to abstain from blood is renewed in the decree of the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:29). It has… …   Easton's Bible Dictionary

  • Blood Thirst — Infobox Film name = Blood Thirst image size = caption = director = Newt Arnold producer = Newt Arnold writer = N.I.P. Dennis narrator = starring = Yvonne Nielson Robert Winston Judy Dennis music = cinematography = editing = distributor = released …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.